It would be relatively easy for an outsider to look upon the clubbing scene in the North East with something approaching scorn, when the primary image of the scene portrayed in the media is that of Geordie Shore; all big muscles, fake breasts and bottle popping.
But the truth of the matter is that the North East, and Newcastle in particular, has long been a breeding ground for some amazing underground talent, especially in the fields of house and techno. Much of that can be attributed to the legacy of legendary club Shindig, an institution talked of in hushed tones even amongst my southern peers growing up in the 90s, but whatever the cause, the North East has produced some incredible break-out producers and DJs in recent years.
Joining the fray this summer is a new label, Throne Room Records. A collective of DJs and producers with lofty ambitions to join those hallowed North East names in lights, their first release is the Birth LP, a compilation of house and techno tracks from artists across their roster.
First track, ‘Indian Summer’, by Nathan Jassi, reflects the global influence the label talks about on their website. Taking cues from (you guessed it) Indian music, the result is a driving, techy dancefloor cut with enough pump to get the most staid of crowds moving.
Net up is ‘Asahi’, by Agrume & Lounes. Dripping in Chicago house influences, with shimmering lead lines, and a flute overlaid on top, the track is deep house at it’s finest, feeling contemporary and classic at the same time.
Echodust’s ‘Mirrors’ follows – much more techno than the previous tracks, this track still has a melodic underpinning, with echoes of vintage progressive house in the synths, and would feel right at home in current sets by DJs like Sasha.
‘Moral Confession’, Zhan’s contribution to the album, is really rather special. An 80s-inflected houser, with lush instrumentation, quirky spoken word bits, and a real hands-in-the-air breakdown, this is my highlight of the LP. Of all the tracks, this is the one which has ended up on repeat the most.
Taking things in a more New Jersey musical direction is Sulpho’s ‘Baltimore’s Finest’. Fat, chunky drums, vintage organ chords, and a spoken word sample all combine to produce a track with as much energy as it has depth. This one is in my crates for sure.
Fakedem wraps up the original tracks on the LP with ‘Feel Love’. A repeating male vocal line, funky percussion and warm bass make this a late-night treat, if not a big-room smasher. One for the heads.
We then get into the remixes – Wescott & Seven Hills take on ‘Moral Confession’, with a flip which is is very Ibiza 2015. Big bassline, chopped up vocals, and a gentle piano line all work superbly, the only question being whether, thanks to those elements, it really stands out much from the crowd.
Reset Safari is the biggest name to appear on the LP, remixing the Agrume & Lounes track, ‘Asahi’. Demonstrating why he is so in demand as a remixer, he takes the US vibes of the original and switches it up into a peak-time DC10 techno stomper.
Finally, we have Ali Emm, a young producer who’s work I’ve followed for a while, with his rub of ‘Indian Summer’. It’s undoubtedly the most commercial track on the LP, but that’s not a negative – the remix will open up the track (and the label) to a wider variety of floors than the rest of the LP does, and so is an excellent choice.
Overall, the Birth LP serves as a great statement of intent for Throne Room Records as a whole. Not every track will be for everyone, but although there is a variety of sounds found here, the level of quality is consistent across the board. If they can keep this up, they’ll be a worthy addition to the pantheon of local dance music success stories.